Walmart unveils major expansion of its grocery delivery service

Who: Walmart and delivery service Instacart.

What: A major expansion of Walmart grocery delivery, including one-hour delivery across much of the country.

When & Where: The new service is available now at 200 stores in most major markets outside Quebec.

Why: Because the battle for Canadian online grocery shoppers is heating up. While the grocery delivery game undeniably changed when Amazon bought Whole Foods, the shift to delivery has been slower in Canada than other markets. But the big players (Loblaw, Metro, Sobeys) are all moving to improve their online grocery shopping options, including both delivery and click-and-collect.

Amazon dominates: A study by Vancouver market researchers NRG last April found that 62% of Canadians who buy groceries online choose Amazon, with Walmart a distant second at 37% and Loblaw at 23%. A lot has happened since then, however, with Metro expanding delivery into the GTA, Loblaw putting a big push on its PC Express click-and-collect options, and Sobeys working with British grocery delivery experts Ocado to build a massive new delivery infrastructure system in Canada.

Canadian habits: According to Dalhousie University’s food industry expert Sylvain Charlebois, online grocery shopping in Canada represents just 1.8% of the total $120 billion market, compared to 7% of all retail food sales in the U.S. Charlebois says the Canadian online share could match America’s 7% by 2025. NRG concluded that 28% of all Canadians had shopped online for some groceries, and about 6% said it is their main shopping channel. Another 27% of those who had not shopped online for groceries said they were willing to do so in the future.

How does Walmart delivery work: Consumers can do their Walmart grocery shopping through the Instacart site or app. Once the order is placed, Instacart shoppers pick and pack the order and delivery can be completed in as little as one hour or, if it’s not urgent, up to five days later. Walmart has been testing the service in Toronto and Winnipeg since last September.

Quote: “Canadian families are busy. By introducing more online shopping options at Walmart, we’re helping make life easier and more convenient for them. Expanding our relationship with Instacart provides our customers with even more time-saving ways to shop at Walmart in their community.” —Lee Tappenden, president and CEO of Walmart Canada.

David Brown